Hannibal by Thomas Harris


  “Do you know what will happen to Kitty Cat? The policemen will take Kitty Cat to the pound and a doctor there will give her a shot. Did you get a shot at day care? Did the nurse give you a shot? With a shiny needle? They’ll give Kitty Cat a shot. She’ll be so scared when she sees the needle. They’ll stick it in and Kitty Cat will hurt and die.”

  Franklin caught the tail of his shirt and held it up beside his face. He put his thumb in his mouth, something he had not done for a year after Mama asked him not to.

  “Come here,” said the voice from the dark. “Come here and I’ll tell you how you can keep Kitty Cat from getting a shot. Do you want Kitty Cat to have the shot, Franklin? No? Then come here, Franklin.”’

  Franklin, eyes streaming, sucking his thumb, walked slowly forward into the dark. When he was within six feet of the bed, Mason blew into his harmonica and the lights came on.

  From innate courage, or his wish to help Kitty Cat, or his wretched knowledge that he had no place to run to anymore, Franklin did not flinch. He did not run. He held his ground and looked at Mason’s face.

  Mason’s brow would have furrowed if he had a brow, at this disappointing result.

  “You can save Kitty Cat from getting the shot if you give Kitty Cat some rat poison yourself,” Mason said. The plosive p was lost, but Franklin understood.

  Franklin took his thumb out of his mouth.

  “You a mean old doo-doo,” Franklin said. “An you ugly too.” He turned around and walked out of the chamber, through the hall of coiled hoses, back to the playroom.

  Mason watched him on video.

  The nurse looked at the boy, watched him closely while pretending to read his Vogue.

  Franklin did not care about the toys anymore. He went over and sat under the giraffe, facing the wall. It was all he could do not to suck his thumb.

  Cordell watched him carefully for tears. When he saw the child’s shoulders shaking, the nurse went to him and wiped the tears away gently with sterile swatches. He put the wet swatches in Mason’s martini glass, chilling in the playroom’s refrigerator beside the orange juice and the Cokes.

  CHAPTER

  10

  FINDING MEDICAL information about Dr. Hannibal Lecter was not easy. When you consider his utter contempt for the medical establishment and for most medical practitioners, it is not surprising that he never had a personal physician.

  The Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where Dr. Lecter was kept until his disastrous transfer to Memphis, was now defunct, a derelict building awaiting demolition.

  The Tennessee State Police were the last custodians of Dr. Lecter before his escape, but they claimed they never received his medical records. The officers who brought him from Baltimore to Memphis, now deceased, had signed for the prisoner, not for any medical records.

  Starling spent a day on the telephone and the computer, then physically searched the evidence storage rooms at Quantico and the J. Edgar Hoover Building. She climbed around the dusty and malodorous bulky evidence room of the Baltimore Police Department for an entire morning, and spent a maddening afternoon dealing with the uncatalogued Hannibal Lecter Collection at the Fitzhugh Memorial Law Library, where time stands still while the custodians try to locate the keys.

  At the end, she was left with a single sheet of paper— the cursory physical examination Dr. Lecter received when he was first arrested by the Maryland State Police. No medical history was attached.

  Inelle Corey had survived the demise of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and gone on to better things at the Maryland State Board of Hospitals. She did not want to be interviewed by Starling in the office, so they met in a ground-floor cafeteria.

  Starling’s practice was to arrive early for meetings and observe the specific meeting point from a distance. Corey was punctual to the minute. She was about thirty-five years old, heavy and pale, without makeup or jewelry. Her hair was almost to her waist, as she had worn it in high school, and she wore white sandals with Supp-Hose.

  Starling collected sugar packets at the condiment stand and watched Corey seat herself at the agreed table.

  You may labor under the misconception that all Protestants look alike. Not so. Just as one Caribbean person can often tell the specific island of another, Starling, raised by the Lutherans, looked at this woman and said to herself, Church of Christ, maybe a Nazarene at the outside.

  Starling took off her jewelry, a plain bracelet and a gold stud in her good ear, and put them in her bag. Her watch was plastic, okay. She couldn’t do much about the rest of her appearance.

  “Inelle Corey? Want some coffee?” Starling was carrying two cups.

  “It’s pronounced Eyenelle. I don’t drink coffee.”

  “I’ll drink both of them, want something else? I’m Clarice Starling.”

  “I don’t care for anything. You want to show me some picture ID?”

  “Absolutely,” Starling said. “Ms. Corey—may I call you Inelle?”

  The woman shrugged.

  “Inelle, I need some help on a matter that really doesn’t involve you personally at all. I just need guidance in finding some records from the Baltimore State Hospital.”

  Inelle Corey speaks with exaggerated precision to express righteousness or anger.

  “We have went through this with the state board at the time of closure, Miss—”

  “Starling.”

  “Miss Starling. You will find that not a patient went out of that hospital without a folder. You will find that not a folder went out of that hospital that was not approved by a supervisor. As far as the deceased go, the Health Department did not need their folders, the Bureau of Vital Statistics did not want their folders, and as far as I know, the dead folders, that is the folders of the deceased, remained at the Baltimore State Hospital past my separation date and I was about the last one out. The elopements went to the city police and the sheriff’s department.”

  “Elopements?”

  “That’s when somebody runs off. Trusties took off sometimes.”

  “Would Dr. Hannibal Lecter be carried as an elopement? Do you think his records might have gone to law enforcement?”

  “He was not an elopement. He was never carried as our elopement. He was not in our custody when he took off. I went down there to the bottom and looked at Dr. Lecter one time, showed him to my sister when she was here with the boys. I feel sort of nasty and cold when I think about it. He stirred up one of those other ones to throw some”—she lowered her voice—“jism on us. Do you know what that is?”

  “I’ve heard the term,” Starling said. “Was it Mr. Miggs, by any chance? He had a good arm.”

  “I’ve shut it out of my mind. I remember you. You came to the hospital and talked to Fred—Dr. Chilton— and went down there in that basement with Lecter, didn’t you?”

  “Yes.”

  Dr. Frederick Chilton was the director of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane who went missing while on vacation after Dr. Lecter’s escape.

  “You know Fred disappeared.”

  “Yes, I heard that.”

  Ms. Corey developed quick, bright tears. “He was my fiancé,” she said. “He was gone, and then the hospital closed, it was just like the roof had fell in on me. If I hadn’t had my church I could not have got by.”

  “I’m sorry,” Starling said. “You have a good job now.”

  “But I don’t have Fred. He was a fine, fine man. We shared a love, a love you don’t find everday. He was voted Boy of the Year in Canton when he was in high school.”

  “Well, I’ll be. Let me ask you this, Inelle, did he keep the records in his office, or were they out in reception where your desk—”

  “They were in the wall cabinets in his office and then they got so many we got big filing cabinets out in the reception area. They was always locked, of course. When we moved out, they moved in the methadone clinic on a temporary basis and a lot of stuff was moved around.”

 
; “Did you ever see and handle Dr. Lecter’s file?”

  “Sure.”

  “Do you remember any X rays in it? Were X rays filed with the medical reports or separate?”

  “With. Filed with. They were bigger than the files and that made it clumsy. We had an X ray but no full-time radiologist to keep a separate file. I honestly don’t remember if there was one with his or not. There was an electrocardiogram tape Fred used to show to people, Dr. Lecter—I don’t even want to call him a doctor—was all wired up to the electrocardiograph when he got the poor nurse. See, it was freakish—his pulse rate didn’t even go up much when he attacked her. He got a separated shoulder when all the orderlies, you know, grabbed aholt of him and pulled him off of her. They’d of had to X-ray him for that. They’d have give him plenty more than a separated shoulder if I’d had something to say about it.”

  “If anything occurs to you, any place the file might be, would you call me?”

  “We’ll do what we call a global search?” Ms. Corey said, savoring the term, “but I don’t think we’ll find anything. A lot of stuff just got abandoned, not by us, but by the methadone people.”

  The coffee mugs had the thick rims that dribble down the sides. Starling watched Inelle Corey walk heavily away like hell’s own option and drank half a cup with her napkin tucked under her chin.

  Starling was coming back to herself a little. She knew she was weary of something. Maybe it was tackiness, worse than tackiness, stylelessness maybe. An indifference to things that please the eye. Maybe she was hungry for some style. Even snuff-queen style was better than nothing, it was a statement, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

  Starling examined herself for snobbism and decided she had damn little to be snobbish about. Then, thinking of style, she thought of Evelda Drumgo, who had plenty of it. With the thought, Starling wanted badly to get outside herself again.

  CHAPTER

  11

  AND SO, Starling returned to the place where it all began for her, the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, now defunct. The old brown building, house of pain, is chained and barred, marked with graffiti and awaiting the wrecking ball.

  It had been going downhill for years before the disappearance on vacation of its director, Dr. Frederick Chilton. Subsequent revelations of waste and mismanagement and the decrepitude of the building itself soon caused the legislature to choke off its funds. Some patients were moved to other state institutions, some were dead and a few wandered the streets of Baltimore as Thorazine zombies in an ill-conceived outpatient program that got more than one of them frozen to death.

  Waiting in front of the old building, Clarice Starling realized she had exhausted the other possibilities first because she did not want to go in this place again.

  The caretaker was forty-five minutes late. He was a stocky older man with a built-up shoe that clopped, and an eastern European haircut that may have been done at home. He wheezed as he led her to a side door, a few steps down from the sidewalk. The lock had been punched out by scavengers and the door secured with a chain and two padlocks. There were fuzzy webs in the links of the chain. Grass growing in the cracks of the steps tickled Starling’s ankles as the caretaker fumbled with his keys. The late afternoon was overcast, the light grainy and without shadows.

  “I am not knowing this building well, I just check the fire alarums,” the man said.

  “Do you know if any papers are stored here? Any filing cabinets, any records?”

  He shrugged. “After the hospital, they had the methadone clinic here, a few months. They put everything in the basement, some bads, some linens, I don’t know what it was. It’s bed in there for my asthma, the mold, very bed mold. The mattresses on the bads were moldy, bed mold on the bads. I kint breed in dere. The stairs are hal on my leck. I would show you, but—?”

  Starling would have been glad of some company, even his, but he would slow her down. “No, go on. Where’s your office?”

  “Down the block there where the driver’s license bureau was before.”

  “If I’m not back in an hour—”

  He looked at his watch. “I’m supposed to be off in a half hour.”

  That’s just about E goddamned nuff. “What you’re going to do for me, sir, is wait for your keys in your office. If I’m not back in an hour, call this number here on the card and show them where I went. If you aren’t there when I come out—if you have closed up and gone home, I will personally go to see your supervisor in the morning to report you. In addition—in addition you will be audited by the Internal Revenue Service and your situation reviewed by the Bureau of Immigration and … and Naturalization. Do you understand? I’d appreciate a reply, sir.”

  “I would have waited for you, of course. You don’t have to say these things.”

  “Thank you very much, sir,” Starling said.

  The caretaker put his big hands on the railing to pull himself up to sidewalk level and Starling heard his uneven gait trail off to silence. She pushed open the door and went in to a landing on the fire stairs. High, barred windows in the stairwell admitted the gray light. She debated whether to lock the door behind her and settled on tying the chain in a knot inside the door so she could open it if she lost the key.

  On Starling’s previous trips to the asylum, to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter, she came through the front entrance and now it took her a moment to orient herself.

  She climbed the fire stairs to the main floor. The frosted windows further cut the failing daylight and the room was in semidarkness. With her heavy flashlight, Starling found a switch and turned on the overhead light, three bulbs still burning in a broken fixture. The raw ends of the telephone wires lay on top of the receptionist’s desk.

  Vandals with spray cans of paint had been in the building. An eight-foot phallus and testicles decorated the reception room wall, along with the inscription FARON MAMA JERK ME OF.

  The door to the director’s office was open. Starling stood in the doorway. It was here she came on her first FBI assignment, when she was still a trainee, still believed everything, still thought that if you could do the job, if you could cut it, you would be accepted, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin or whether or not you were a good old boy Of all this, there remained to her one article of faith. She believed that she could cut it.

  Here Hospital Director Chilton had offered his greasy hand, and come on to her. Here he had traded secrets and eavesdropped and, believing he was as smart as Hannibal Lecter, had made the decisions that allowed Lecter to escape with so much bloodshed.

  Chilton’s desk remained in the office, but there was no chair, it being small enough to steal. The drawers were empty except for a crushed Alka-Seltzer. Two filing cabinets remained in the office. They had simple locks and former technical agent Starling had them open in less than a minute. A desiccated sandwich in a paper bag and some office forms for the methadone clinic were in a bottom drawer, along with breath freshener and a tube of hair tonic, a comb and some condoms.

  Starling thought about the dungeonlike basement level of the asylum where Dr. Lecter had lived for eight years. She didn’t want to go down there. She could use her cell phone and ask for a city police unit to go down there with her. She could ask the Baltimore field office to send another FBI agent with her. It was late on the gray afternoon and there was no way, even now, she could avoid the rush-hour traffic in Washington. If she waited, it would be worse.

  She leaned on Chilton’s desk in spite of the dust and tried to decide. Did she really think there might be files in the basement, or was she drawn back to the first place she ever saw Hannibal Lecter?

  If Starling’s career in law enforcement had taught her anything about herself, it was this: She was not a thrill seeker, and she would be happy never to feel fear again. But there might be files in the basement. She could find out in five minutes.

  She could remember the clang of the high-security doors behind her when she went down there years ago. In
case one should close behind her this time, she called the Baltimore field office and told them where she was and made an arrangement to call back in an hour to say she was out.

  The lights worked in the inside staircase, where Chilton had walked her to the basement level years ago. Here he had explained the safety procedures used in dealing with Hannibal Lecter, and here he had stopped, beneath this light, to show her his wallet photograph of the nurse whose tongue Dr. Lecter had eaten during an attempted physical examination. If Dr. Lecter’s shoulder had been dislocated as he was subdued, surely there must be an X ray.

  A draft of air on the stairs touched her neck, as though there were a window open somewhere.

  A McDonald’s hamburger box was on the landing, and scattered napkins. A stained cup that had held beans. Dumpster food. Some ropey turds and napkins in the corner. The light ended at the bottom floor landing, before the great steel door to the violent ward, now standing open and hooked back against the wall. Starling’s flashlight held five D-cells and cast a good wide beam.

  She shined it down the long corridor of the former maximum security unit. There was something bulky at the far end. Eerie to see the cell doors standing open. The floor was littered with bread wrappers and cups. A soda can, blackened from use as a crack pipe, lay on the former orderly’s desk.

  Starling flipped the light switches behind the orderly station. Nothing. She took out her cell phone. The red light seemed very bright in the gloom. The phone was useless underground, but she spoke into it loudly. “Barry, back the truck up to the side entrance. Bring a floodlight. You’ll need some dollies to move this stuff up the stairs… yeah, come on down.”

  Then Starling called into the dark, “Attention in there. I’m a federal officer. If you are living here illegally, you are free to leave. I will not arrest you. I am not interested in you. If you return after I complete my business, it’s of no interest to me. You can come out now. If you attempt to interfere with me you will suffer severe personal injury when I bust a cap in your ass. Thank you.”

 
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